Executive communication plays a key role in building connections between the organization’s C-suite and employees. It provides executives with a space to communicate their vision and offer insightful feedback. Furthermore, it boosts employee morale, improves the organizational image, and helps everyone better navigate through critical situations.
In this guide, we’ll learn more about the importance of executive communication — and ways to develop it properly.
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What is executive communications?
Executive communication encompasses various forms of communication, including face-to-face interactions, written messages, and virtual exchanges. They originate from the individuals occupying executive positions within a company’s C-suite or leadership team, extending beyond the CEO.
Executive communication relies on four pillars — comfort, context, content, and connection — and can be arranged internally or externally:
- Internally, executive communication takes the shape of emails, informal discussions, town hall meetings, and interactions on platforms like Slack.
- Externally, this communication manifests through social media engagements, public appearances, investor conferences, and other relevant mediums.
The combination of internal and external channels is vital for a successful executive communication strategy.
Executive communication vs. internal communication
On the executive level, communications aim to inform employees about the company’s vision and objectives and provide guidance on achieving those goals. They set a clear direction for employees and the executive team to follow.
In contrast to an executive communication strategy, effective internal communication focuses more on promoting collaboration, encouraging participation, building trust, facilitating feedback, and boosting employee engagement.
The importance of executive communications strategy
Executive communication has an effect on how audiences perceive, trust, and engage with a company. That’s because transparency has become increasingly vital for brands, inspiring 32% of consumers to buy from businesses.
Below are more factors behind executive communication’s importance.
☑️ Executive communication is vital for crisis management
In times of crisis, effective executive communication plays a pivotal role in successfully navigating difficulty. Research has shown that executives who handle crises with honesty can win over employees and avert potential PR disasters. It is advisable to anticipate such situations and develop a crisis communication plan in advance. Most boards have it as a part of their governance plan — from hospital board governance to nonprofit board governance.
☑️ Effective executive communication improves team agility
In modern organizations, effective leaders no longer rely on direct reports to disseminate information, using various channels, from social media to email to communicate updates. In fact, the use of social media by CEOs and other C-level staff increases organizational transparency by 75%. This is why it is recommended to have a dedicated communications strategy for the CEO.
Cross-functional communication is easier with board portals and other technology that fosters direct communication of the executive committee with relevant employees.
☑️ Executive communication builds trust
Studies indicate that 55% of leaders believe that a lack of trust directly threatens company growth. By accepting accountability and adopting a transparent approach, executives can regain the trust of their employees. Radio silence or attempts to cover up issues would only further erode trust.
☑️ Effective executive communication boosts engagement
Research shows that executive communications managers can make up to a 70% difference in employee engagement. Executives who communicate regularly nurture a healthy company culture and inspire employees to put in the effort, which leads to a better business outcome.
☑️ Effective executive communication creates a positive brand image
The voice of executives is synonymous with the brand. It should align with PR and marketing efforts to create a consistent brand voice that shapes public perception.
By preparing an authentic message instead of relying on scripted answers, executives can stay on track and project a unified message that aligns with the company’s values and enhances brand credibility.
4 steps to develop an executive communications plan
To create a communication plan, you should enhance your executive communication skills, set clear goals and timelines, and properly understand the personas with whom you’ll be communicating. Let’s explore these steps further.
1. Work towards improving your executive communication skills
By equipping the executive team with these skills, they will be better prepared to communicate with employees and customers in a more impactful way. Key skills to focus on include:
- Active listening and empathy
- Adjusting communication styles
- Ensuring clarity and transparency
- Understanding company vision/objectives and communicating them
- Providing meaningful feedback
2. Create specific employee personas your communication will target
Employee personas represent different profiles within your organization and help you understand their needs, interests, and values as employees. By creating these personas, you can ensure that your messages correspond to their needs.
3. Create and implement a focused communication plan
To enhance alignment through all your executive-level communications, make sure they meet all five criteria:
- Simple. Avoid the trap of showcasing your intelligence or vocabulary. Communicate in a straightforward manner, especially as a leader.
- Clear. Remember, simplicity aids memorability. When your message is clear and simple, people remember it, share it with others, and are more likely to take action.
- Concise. Don’t waste time with unnecessary details. It is important to get to the point before losing your audience’s attention.
- Connected. Use examples and storytelling to establish a connection with your audience. Tap into what inspires and motivates them, making your message more memorable.
- Frequent. People often require multiple exposures and varied formats to grasp and retain information. Communicate regularly, as spaced repetition is crucial for learning.
Also, remember that individuals absorb information differently. Some prefer reading, others prefer listening, some rely on visualization, and others benefit from experiential learning, so it’s important to use a mix of channels and messages that caters to your audience’s needs.
4. Map responsibilities of executive communication managers
To manage appropriate communication channels for effective executive communications, it’s important to involve stakeholders from different teams. Establishing clear approval processes sets expectations, allowing for more review time and more thoughtful preparation.
Having an approval process in place is especially beneficial:
- When executives are writing their own content, a dedicated approval process offers an opportunity to edit messages, ensuring that executives accurately represent themselves and the brand.
- In the case of ghostwriting, a well-defined review process enables executives to provide input, iterate on the messaging, and ultimately approve it for authenticity.
Executive communications plan example
The purpose of a C-level communications plan is to outline a strategic approach for executive teams to communicate with internal and external stakeholders effectively. To do so, the CEO’s communications plan must address such key messages as objectives of communication strategy, targeted channels and platforms, tone and messaging, and audience.
Below is an example of what an effective strategy may include:
- Objectives and goals of communication
- Key audience groups or clusters
- Key distribution channels
- Tone of voice and key messages
- Well-documented approval process
- Well-documented process of communication distribution
- Key stakeholders, their contacts, and additional considerations or resources
|Forprofits and nonprofits commonly have different sets of communication guidelines. Check out this guide for nonprofit strategic plan development for requirements for nonprofits.|
While not necessary, a crisis communication and a continuous business development plan would be a nice addition to your communications strategy. Beyond that, your communications strategy should clearly document all approval processes that exist in your workplace.
The suggested structure serves just as a starting point for your future communication development. You can either customize it to fit the unique needs of your organization or download a communication strategy template.
Best practices for an effective communication strategy
Now, let’s see how you can ensure a strong executive presence with the right approach to your workplace communication.
We’ll summarize some of the tips executive communication managers can use to improve employee engagement, promote speak-up culture, and ensure success:
|Objectives||Clearly define the objectives of the executive communication plan, aligning them with the company’s mission, vision, and values.|
|Identify specific goals such as improving employee feedback, handling reputation management, cultivating thought leadership, managing crisis situations effectively, increasing media appearances, or just sharing insights and internal announcements.|
|Arrange an executive communication training to ensure well-structured education for all executive team members.|
|Target audience||Identify the key stakeholders and internal and external audiences for executive communication. These may include employees, customers, investors, strategic business advisors, media, and other relevant parties.Segment the audience based on demographics, roles, and preferences to tailor communication strategies accordingly.|
|Channels and platforms||Determine the most effective communication channels and platforms to reach the targeted audience.|
|Consider various options such as town halls, emails, intranet portals, social media, video messages, internal newsletters, and public speaking engagements.|
|Arrange media training for the C-suite. Ensure each team member properly understands how to use the technology to convey their messages.|
|Messaging and tone||Define the key messages that align with the company’s vision, values, and strategic goals.|
|Establish a consistent tone of communication that reflects the organization’s culture and resonates with the audience.|
|Ensure messages are clear, concise, and aligned with the needs and expectations of the target audience.|
|Content creation and distribution||Develop a content creation plan, outlining the topics, formats, and delivery schedules for executive communications.|
|Assign responsibilities for content creation and distribution among relevant team members.|
|Ensure content is engaging, informative, and relevant to the audience, using storytelling, examples, and visuals when appropriate.|
|Approval process||Establish a clear approval process to review and finalize executive communications.|
|Involve key stakeholders and subject matter experts to ensure accuracy, alignment, and compliance with regulatory requirements.|
|Set realistic timelines to allow for revisions, edits, and necessary approvals.|
|Measurement and evaluation||Define metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of executive communication efforts.|
|Regularly evaluate the impact of communication initiatives against the defined objectives.|
|Use feedback, surveys, analytics, and employee sentiment analysis to gather insights and make improvements.|
|Crisis communication plan||Develop a crisis communication plan that outlines how executive communication will be handled during challenging situations.|
|Define roles, responsibilities, and protocols for timely and effective communication.|
|Establish guidelines for transparency, empathy, and maintaining trust with internal and external stakeholders.|
|Continuous improvement||Foster a culture of continuous improvement by gathering feedback and insights from the audience.|
|Regularly review and update the executive communication plan based on changing needs, emerging trends, and organizational developments.|
|Key contacts and resources||Provide a list of key contacts, including executives, communication team members, and relevant stakeholders.|
|Include external resources such as PR agencies, media contacts, and legal advisors, if applicable.|
How board portals can help a successful executive communication strategy
Board portals can play a significant role in improving executive communication by providing an executive’s platform for collaboration and information. Here are some ways board portals can help improve executive communications:
- Centralized communication hub. Board portals serve as a centralized hub for all board-related communication, allowing executives to access important documents, reports, and updates in one secure location in real time.
- Enhanced document management. Board portals enable executives to create, distribute, and collaborate easily on documents, such as meeting agendas, executive session minutes, and presentations.
- Secure messaging and discussion boards. Board portals provide secure messaging and discussion board features, which facilitate ongoing discussions, idea sharing, and decision-making for executives.
- Real-time updates and notifications. Board portals can send real-time notifications and reminders to board members regarding upcoming meetings, deadlines, or important updates.
- Virtual meeting capabilities. Board portals offer virtual meeting capabilities, enabling executives to conduct remote meetings and video conferences. This is particularly useful for geographically dispersed teams or during unforeseen circumstances that prevent in-person meetings.
|By leveraging board portals, executives can streamline all aspects of board communications, from document management and distribution to secure messaging, notifications, and virtual meetings — not to mention the security and bank-grade protection they provide.|
- An executive communication plan is a strategic document that outlines the goals, strategies, and tactics for effectively communicating with stakeholders, both internally and externally, to convey the company’s vision, objectives, and messages from executive leadership.
- Unlike internal communications focusing solely on employee motivation, executive communication provides a roadmap for how executives communicate consistently, timely, and in a way that aligns with the organization’s overall communication strategy.
- To build an effective communication strategy, consider your objectives, target audience, distribution channels, key messages, approval process, crisis communication plan, and other aspects necessary for your organization.
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What are the goals of executive communication?
The goals of executive communication are to foster trust and consistently prioritize transparent relationships by aligning stakeholders with the company’s vision and objectives, boosting employee morale, building a positive brand image, strengthening executive presence, and effectively communicating during times of crisis.
What does an executive manager do?
An executive manager is responsible for overseeing and guiding the overall strategic direction of a company, making difficult decisions, managing senior-level staff, and ensuring the organization’s goals and objectives are achieved.